Forgotten How to be Social at Work?

As the pandemic morphs into an endemic, many remote workers are being asked to return to the office — some are less excited about it than others. In this episode of My Crazy Office, Kathi and Katherine ask the question, “Have you forgotten how to be social at work?” If so, here’s what you can do about it.

#37: The Needy, Anxious Employee – My Crazy Office, Season 8

Kathi and Katherine talk about needy, anxious employees on this week’s episode of the My Crazy Office podcast.

First we discuss how to manage an employee who is a hard-worker but also needy and anxious.

Then we give self-management advice to someone with high anxiety.

#36: Late Night Emails – My Crazy Office, Season 8

Kathi and Katherine talk about late night emails on this week’s episode of the My Crazy Office podcast.

First we discuss what to do when you receive emails from your boss after midnight.

Then we give advice to managers who send late night emails when they are anxious or concerned about something.

“Normal” Activity Anxiety: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 8

Kathi and Katherine talk about anxiety on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

Are you anxious about returning to normal activity?

Listen to this week’s podcast here.

Feeling Anxious?: My Crazy Office Overtime, Season 8

Kathi and Katherine talk about anxiety on this week’s My Crazy Office Overtime show.

Are you feeling anxious? You are not alone.

Listen to this week’s podcast here and read the article referenced here.

Anxious About Re-entry to the Office?

Re-entry anxiety, it’s a real phenomenon. While one part of you may be eager to get back into the world to experience a semi-normal life, another part of you may be petrified. Going back to the office, venturing outdoors, visiting with friends – all of these activities that used to be automatic can now spark waves of fear and anxiety. 

Why? Because your mind has gotten used to a certain way of living during the pandemic that feels safe and under your control.  Sheltering in place may be confining, but it is predictable. You know exactly what is coming into and what is going out of your environment. You know how to safely manage your life.

Re-entry adds a range of new ingredients – especially other people – that can literally feel hazardous to your health.

So how do we handle our fear of re-entering?

  • Acknowledge that re-entry anxiety is understandable and real. It’s the outcome of sheltering in place in a safe environment that you can control. Going outside of that environment will naturally spark some fear.
  • Identify your specific fears. If you are someone who is physically vulnerable to the virus, you may fear contracting it because of more exposure to more people. If you are someone who is generally anxious, your anxiety may be heightened due to anticipatory anxiety. Are you afraid of large crowds? Confined spaces? Returning to work in general? Public transportation? Identify the specifics so that you can address them.
  • Once you know the fears, talk about them with others. Better to voice your anxiety than to hold it in. You can do this with a sympathetic friend, a family member, or a hired professional. You may want to consult a physician if you have specific medical concerns or psychological counselor if the anxiety feels debilitating. 
  • Construct a plan to re-enter that is cautious and gradual. The treatment for anxiety is not to stay locked in. It is to slowly, carefully expose yourself to more experiences so that you can find a way to re-enter your former life. You want to respect the anxiety without letting it hold you hostage.
  • If your re-entry anxiety involves work, talk it over with your employer. Many companies are eager to discuss re-entry with their staff and to construct a plan that can help them feel safe. Perhaps you can create a reduced schedule or minimal commuting for the time being.
  • Keep doing the activities and routines that you find nourishing. While sheltering in place, have you enjoyed cooking? Do you have an exercise routine that gives you energy? Is there a creative pastime (drawing, singing, dancing) that you’ve put into practice? Those activities can be grounding and soothing to you as you begin to re-enter your former life.

One more thing, if part of what you fear involves returning to a competitive workplace or working endless hours, you may want to consider some longer-range changes. Do you need to re-design your job? Do you need to look for a different work situation altogether? You may not be ready to make any immediate changes, but you can begin to contemplate the kind of work life and home life that will ultimately work for you.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises.

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

Managing Our Brain’s Response To Uncertainty

As our world, our country, our states, our towns, and our communities work hard to address the many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, each of us has another internal challenge that requires our constant attention – How do we manage living with so much uncertainty? 

It’s one thing to be unsure about tomorrow’s weather or the time of a flight arrival, but the uncertainty that COVID-19 brings is over the top. We don’t know when the economy will get going again, when or if we will return to our former workplaces, whether we will have a second wave of the virus, what will happen to cities that re-open prematurely, how schools will function. The list of unknowns is daunting.

In an article titled, Science Explains Why Uncertainty Is So Hard on Our Brain, writer Markham Heid explains why we human beings struggle with uncertainty. Apparently, fear of uncertainty (AKA fear of the unknown) is one of strongest fears that human beings have. It is at the root of many anxiety disorders, panic attacks and depressed states.

Uncertainty is a disruptor. It interrupts the brain’s routine and habitual thoughts, assumptions, and decision-making processes. Uncertainty makes planning difficult and creates a sense of danger or foreboding. Tasked with trying to figure out what will happen next, the brain kicks into high gear. It generates survival-oriented mental processes such as hyper-vigilance, emotional reactivity, catastrophic thinking and obsessive worry. 

What helps the brain manage uncertainty? Anything that takes it (and you) out of worry, obsession, emotional reactivity, and catastrophic thinking. Anything that puts it (and you) in the present moment.   

Plan for the day – not for the year. Jot down manageable goals of things that you can accomplish here and now (or over the next few days) that will make you feel a sense of accomplishment and control. Examples: clean one room, clear out one closet, reconcile your bank account, put away your clothes, fix something that’s broken, start one creative project, plan a Zoom get-together. 

Focus on the things you can influence, not the things you can’t. You can’t control which states open their businesses at what point in time. You can’t control whether your industry is going through a rough time. You can look for opportunities to reconfigure your work life in a way that makes more sense to you. Look for where your power lies, and focus there.

Slow down. This may sound silly. Why would you want to slow down when your brains tells you to hurry up? Because slowing down will help you manage uncertainty from a clearer, calmer place. Worry, anxiety and obsessive thinking do not help with uncertainty. Being present does. Slowing down may mean that you stop, breathe, and enjoy the breakfast you’re eating. It could involve watching the birds outside your window as they fly and perch. Slowing down may mean you take just a few minutes to practice meditation every morning, or it could entail a break from work where you breathe slowly and deeply three times. The idea is to slow your system down enough to reduce the chatter in your brain. 

Limit your intake of news. Afraid of what could lie ahead, the brain projects gloomy hypotheticals and worse case scenarios. It then looks for confirmation. News outlets often feed into that anxiety with their attempts at predicting future events. Studies show that too much information overwhelms the brain, leaving it confused and distressed. Try to put strict limits on the amount of news that you ingest. It will improve your ability to manage uncertainty.

Living with this degree of uncertainty is challenging for everyone. Appreciating that our brains have trouble with the unknown can inspire us to manage the anxiety and emotional reactivity that comes with the many unknown outcomes of the current pandemic.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.

Is Someone Getting on Your Last Nerve?

My husband was noticeably irritated with me last night. He said that I was “yawn talking.” Do you know what yawn talking is? It’s when you keep talking even as you yawn. Apparently, I’ve been doing that a lot lately, and it’s extremely annoying.

My initial reaction after being accused of “yawn talking,” was to strike back. If I do that, then he “burp talks.” But that isn’t really the point. The point is, we’ve been sheltering in place for too long, and we’re getting on each other’s nerves. Critical words, verbal tics, grating habits, and nonverbal gestures that we might normally have shrugged off are getting to us.

You may find yourself in a similar situation. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard numerous complaints from my clients about other people’s bad behavior. It could be a boss who is making more-than-usual unreasonable demands. A family member who is acting out. A coworker who is chronically late – even for Zoom meetings. Perhaps you have an upstairs neighbor who is playing loud music or moving furniture late at night.

None of these may be new behaviors, but they feel more irritating today. It’s the emotional by-product of extended captivity in the name of staying safe.

If your nerves are frayed, your temper is quick, and you feel overly reactive to the behavior of others, you are not alone. The question is, what can we do to calm our systems down?

Here are a few tips:

Shift your energy – I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. Confined living creates pent up energy which needs to be released one way or another. Run, jog, dance, squirm, have a pillow fight, take a bath, step outside, take ten deep breaths. Do something to shift the energy and relax your system. The more rigorous the movement, the better the release.

Ask yourself, “how important is it?” – If someone criticizes you, interrupts you, ignores you, makes a sarcastic remark, or offends you in some way, try to pause and ask yourself if it’s worth getting upset about. Is this a matter of life or death? Is your welfare truly threatened by this person/event/remark?

Let someone talk you off of the ledge – Sometimes you may know that you are over-reacting but you can’t help yourself. At these times, it’s smart to call a trusted friend or confidante, voice your complaint, and let them calm you down.

Try to find the humor – This isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. I am forever grateful to those people who can find the humor in difficult moments. Laughter relaxes the nervous system and puts small problems in their proper perspective. If you can find what’s funny in a tense exchange, both parties will benefit.

There is no miracle cure for our frayed nerves at this time. We don’t know exactly when we will be less confined, more mobile, less fearful. While we do our best to manage our lives during the pandemic, let’s all commit to doing what we can to soothe our over-worked nerves.

Katherine Crowley – Career Therapist and co-owner of K Squared Enterprises

Contact us at info@mycrazyoffice.co for any further help around this topic.